Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I never learned how to rope, but here's an expert from yesteryear that really knew how to make a length of hemp do magic.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
The Author’s Academy is a subscription website dedicated to teaching “authors how to write, produce, and market their books successfully.” On Wednesday, Grael Norton interviewed me in a teleconference titled "How to Sell 1,000Books this Holiday Season." The title of the talk comes from a few seasons ago when I sold over 1,000 print copies in December. Today, this is not a large number for me, but my holiday sales are now heavily weighted toward e-books.
Despite the popularity of e-books, print books still make outstanding gifts. You can choose a fiction or nonfiction book that precisely targets the interests of the recipient. A book in their favorite genre or about their hobby can make them happy, plus it shows you cared enough to pick a gift just for them. For a reasonable price, a book gives hours upon hours of enjoyment and can even be revisited in years to come, and unlike a Christmas card that gets discarded or thrown in a box, a personal inscription on the flyleaf of your gift book lasts forever.
This holiday season, give a book to someone you love … preferably one of these, of course.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Doing research for Jenny's Revenge, A Steve Dancy Tale, I had reason to read up on Annie Oakley. It struck me that she had a strong resemblance to the fictional Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games.
Katniss is an exceptional marksman with bow and arrow who honed her skill by hunting to feed her fatherless family. In fact, she was so good at hunting, she traded her excess kills for other essentials needed by her family to survive. At 16 years old, Katniss becomes a celebrated hero due her unprecedented display of skill in a national show. To add spice to the story, she has romantic relationships with another contestant and her hunting partner.
At age 8, Annie Oakley started shooting game to feed her fatherless family. She sold her excess kills to a grocery store, and her hunting was so prolific that by 15 years of age, she paid off the family mortgage. Oakley became the first female superstar, famed all over the world for her shooting exhibitions in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. At age 16, she married a fellow contestant in a shooting contest, and her husband performed with Oakley throughout her career.
In 1875 on Thanksgiving Day, Frank E. Butler placed a $100 bet that he could beat any local sharp shooter. Annie Oakley beat Butler on the twenty-fifth shot. Some trick shootists might have resented losing to a five foot tall, fifteen year old girl, but Butler invited Oakley to join his act and they were married a year later. (There is some doubt about the actual year, but I’m going with the famous quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”)
Oakley shot almost every gun known to nineteenth century man ... or woman. At ninety feet, she could hit a playing card set on edge, and then hit it repeatedly before it touched the ground. She hit dimes tossed in the air. She regularly shot the tip off a cigarette held between her husband’s lips. I’ve heard of never going to bed angry, but I bet this couple had a different motto.
I have never read that Suzanne Collins said Annie Oakley inspired Katniss, but as Mark Twain opined, truth is stranger than fiction.
|Coming soon: Jenny's Revenge|
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
There seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
I woke up this morning in my new home to discover the silent night had painted the landscape white. That’s the thing about snow, it’s sneaky.
I grew up on the beach in Southern California when the state deserved to be called golden. I thought snow was something you drove to so you could slide down a hill on a sled, skis, a piece of cardboard. For a couple years in the distant past, I lived in Ohio. This was my introduction to weather that forgets to announce its arrival. When I threw up the garage door to find my driveway covered in snow, an expletive escaped my lips. It meant I had to shovel the driveway and sidewalk before I could leave for work. Bummer.
|Heavy rain gives you fair warning|
Quest Center, Omaha, Nebraska
Nowadays, I’m retired except for writing, so I enjoy snow. I’m also enjoying Nebraska far more than I expected. I knew I’d like seeing the grandchildren nearly every day, but the state itself has been pleasantly surprising. There are great people in Nebraska and far more geographic diversity than I80 would lead you to believe. Coming from Arizona with its deserts, mountains, and everything in between— including a canyon of grand proportions—I expected dull flatness. Not so. Omaha, my new home, rambles gently through pleasant rolling hills. In fact, my home looks out over knolls that show off fresh snow like a dandy might flaunt a newly purchased wardrobe.
But you don’t have to believe me. Monty McCord posted this video about Nebraska on Facebook. Stunning images. My only question is: where is all that white stuff?
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
The Fictional Café has previewed the first chapter of Jenny’s Revenge, the fifth novel in the Steve Dancy series.
If you enjoy fiction, bounce around the Fictional café. You’ll find author interviews, sample writings, book reviews, and pod casts. Membership is free.
|Honest Westerns ... filled with dishonest characters|
Monday, November 3, 2014
In a Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Stephen King presents 20 writing tips. Most famous writers offer ten or perhaps a dozen tips, but as you may have noticed, King is prolific. I like Stephen King, and he’s a great storyteller. His memoir, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft contains a wealth of wisdom about writing. This list is much shorter, but all writers can benefit from following his guidelines.
That said, I would quibble with a couple of his points. First, #10 is too strict. King can write a first draft in less than three months, but mortals need more time—especially those who have to pay the mortgage, put food on the table, and run a couple errands each day. Don’t hurry yourself … but never stop for an extended period. It’s too easy to put off writing one more day when you've been on a long hiatus.
Until you make a living by writing, I disagree with #13. Few of us have the luxury of erecting a force field around us when we write. Learn to write with distractions … otherwise you may never complete an entire novel. Looking for the perfect writing environment is a sure route to writers-block.
Last, #19 is balderdash. Just because you have driven a car for your entire life doesn't mean you can join the NASCAR circuit and race at near 200 MPH in bumper to bumper traffic. Maybe some can learn writing from reading fiction, but I needed help. I read dozens of books on writing, participated in workshops, and used a writing coach early on. I still read at least one book a year on the craft of writing. On Writing by Stephen King is a good place to start.
Here are King’s tip headlines. You can read his explanations for each one at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog.
|10th Anniversary Edition|
1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience.
2. Don’t use passive voice.
3. Avoid adverbs.
4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”
5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar.
6. The magic is in you.
7. Read, read, read.
8. Don’t worry about making other people happy.
9. Turn off the TV.
10. You have three months.
11. There are two secrets to success.
12. Write one word at a time.
13. Eliminate distraction.
14. Stick to your own style.
16. Take a break.
17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings.
18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story.
19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing.
20. Writing is about getting happy.
Good advice. I especially like his comment in this interview that a writer’s goal is “to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.”